After spending nearly 2.5 years at the negotiating table, Local 525 members ratified a new contract with an 80 percent vote on June 16.
Local 525 members are firefighters at Kennedy Space Center and bargain with the Chenega Corporation. In case any sort of fire or emergency happens to NASA, they are on call.
In March 2018, Chenega imposed their “best and final offer” to the membership, which was a huge slap in the face. Their proposal included:
- Massive Overtime cuts
- 401K Losses
- Minimal wage increase
- Non-paid rest periods – and
- Removed 100% sick leave
“Local 525 members put their lives on the line every day and we absolutely could not accept this miserly deal,” said TWU Air Division Director Mike Mayes. “It’s disgraceful to offer a firefighter a contract that doesn’t include any sick days.”
Solidarity was a huge part of the contract fight. In July 2018, hundreds of TWU members from across the country picketed outside the Kennedy Space Center, demanding a fair contract for Local 525. The picket line went on for three quarters of a mile and lasted for hours – even in the scorching temperatures.
In 2018, the TWU filed a lawsuit against Chenega for not paying overtime as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
On June 11, 2019, the TWU and Chenega met in federal mediation and began the process of trying to find a resolution to the lawsuit.
Local 525 President Kevin Smith explained that Chenega was motivated to settle the lawsuit and come to a contract agreement because NASA was poised to remove them from their property and replace them with a new contractor. At the same time, the union was also pressed to find common ground due to the fact that the next contract “could” include a “Wage Determination” for the Department of Labor, which could result in wage and benefit cuts.
That very same day, on June 11, the lawsuit was settled via mediation late into the evening with $1.375 million in back-wages for all overtime illegally removed.
The three-year contract includes:
- Returned sick leave (all but one day)
- Restoration of all overtime going forward
- “Time-Trades” allowing more time off for employees
- The return of two terminated employees
- Agreed to a 401k Matching program (5% Matching)
- Wage Increases
“This is another big win for the TWU,” Mayes said. “It proves that you can never cave into a company’s demands – workers should always prevail.”
“We didn’t get 100 percent of what these first responders deserve, but we’ve returned the majority of the vital benefits the company stole from us and secured a three-year contract for the membership,” Smith said. “Now we’re are going to focus on providing the first-class service we’ve always given at Kennedy Space Center.”